I've been doing a reread of Brian Bendis's Superman/Action run this past week -- with the publication of Action 1009, he's reached 24 full issues, plus a short in Action Comics 1000. And I've found some interesting threads to consider.
1) On his recent Word Balloon interview, Bendis mentioned that there's a conspiracy at STAR Labs. It was one of their experiments going wrong that plunged Earth into the Phantom Zone in the first issues of Superman. Specifically, it was "Phantom Zone mapping," which they'd done before with no ill effects. So it might have been sabotage, or an interaction with another experiment the rank-and-file didn't know about.
Anyway, in Man of Steel #1, Lois mentions the Vice President has a secret financial stake in STAR Labs's overseas operations. She was just about the force him to disclose it when she headed out into space. (The allegations about the VP are repeated in issue 2, so there's a good chance this isn't throwaway dialogue.)
2) The Dominators. The first issue of Superman opens with Clark out in space, looking in all directions for Lois and Jon. He spots a Dominator fleet heading straight for Earth. Light-years away, but on the move. He flies out there and disables them before they cause any harm.
Later, in issue 7, Jon tells his story of his time with Mr. Oz. That *also* begins with a fight with the Dominators, heading straight for earth. And Jon & Mr. Oz take out the fleet. It seems weird that two unrelated Dominator fleets were heading for Earth at approximately the same time. (The fight in issue 7 would have happened before the fight in issue 1.) So either the Dominators are being really persistent in targeting Earth, or maybe it's a hole in the now-aged-and-returned Jon's story. The one drawback to that theory is that Lois was there for the Dominator battle. She might not have been aware of which aliens they were, but I can't imagine her not asking.
Anyway, I found that a little strange.
3) The visions. In Superman issue 5, Zod has a vision of a peaceful future, with the houses of El & Zod celebrating a tenuous wedding to unite their houses. Kandorians are there also, indicating that Zod doesn't yet know they've been killed by Rogol Zaar. The scene is broken up by an attack from a large group of flying people...and in issue 5, it was easy to presume it was the horde of Phantom Zone criminals Zaar was leading.
And yet in issue 9, Superman daydreams himself a similar peaceful scene -- World Peace Day, with superheroes the world over thanking him for making it possible. Zod arrives on the scene in a spirit of truce as well, seemingly invited by Jon. And then, another attack from the sky. We can see the attackers a little more clearly this time, and can make out some silhouettes. And it could very well be the Legion of Super-Heroes. (There are figures that look like Bouncing Boy, Gates, Lightning Lad, and Chameleon Boy among them.) And that puts the last line Zod says before getting attacked in *his* dream in a different perspective. His last words there were, "The future..."
I haven't reread Action Comics yet (aside from the story in 1000), but I'm betting I'll find more clues and things that reward close reading there, too.
Anyway, that's what I've got to say for now. I'll probably follow up with some nice moments from the run in a little while. There's definitely one bit of storytelling in Superman issue 6 that I really want to highlight -- a virtuoso use of the comics medium.
Thanks for the summary/questions, Rob. I've fallen behind on my Bendis Supers, and wouldn't have put all that together on my own.
Yeah, it's been about a year now, so reading the stories with some time compression makes the bigger picture easier to see.
A little bit more about STAR Labs from Jimmy Olsen (Action Comics 3). Clark walks into the newsroom, and Jimmy asks "What are you hearing out of STAR Labs?" and then says "I took a picture and I don't know exactly what it -- " before getting cut off.
Meanwhile we've got two more mysteries, about Lois: Lois is back, and she's writing a book. We don't know much about the book yet, but we know Cat Grant has read an early draft, and says it's good. Also, at the end of Action issue 3, we know Lex visited Lois in her secret apartment, but we don't know what he said to her.
And some fun: Perry's desk (the recap splash in issue 3) features an email from Dan Didio rejecting Perry's pitch for a children's story about the Red Tornado. And it has what looks like an actual pitch from Bendis about Event Leviathan. Plus, there's a bottle whose label is obscured, but it looks like it says Krypto Bismol. Which is awesome.
I love the way Bendis has turned Action Comics into a thriller. For the longest time, I have wanted another story along the lines of John Ostrander's The Janus Directive crossover from the late 80's, and it looks like we have one...what, thirty years later? I am so pumped about it.
We have Superman, Lois, Amanda Waller, Jimmy Olsen, Sam Lane, The Question, and Mr. Bones all involved so far. I can't wait to see where this story goes next.
I'm loving it too! And I'm excited to see Chaz and Andi work together undercover next issue!
One thing I'm definitely not clear on...why did Amanda shoot Sam in issue 1008? Was it because she suspected he wasn't himself? (He *did* just indicate some uncharacteristic feelings about Superman...) Did she know his force field could take it, and was trying to get away from him? Did she intentionally leave him for Leviathan to facilitate her escape (As the old joke goes: After seeing a bear, a hunter stops to put on his sneakers, telling his friend, "I don't have to outrun the bear...I just have to outrun you.")
I think we will too. But since it's gone unremarked upon so far, it's one of those things that I wonder whether the reasoning should have been apparent to us but isn't, or if it's something that will be revealed in the future. I guess we'll see...possibly when Sam wakes up.
But I'm so happy about this storyline because Bendis seems interested in fixing the character of Sam Lane, who is pretty much my least favorite fixture of the Superman universe. Somewhere along the line he evolved from father-in-law that just doesn't get what Lois sees in Clark (a perfectly decent supporting character) to power-mad general who's liable to be a full-on Superman villain at any point. Lois telling Sam Clark's secret is a way of dealing with and defusing that situation -- a real act of emotional bravery on Lois's part -- and I'm glad to see it happen...and for the first time ever, I'm excited to know what Sam Lane does next.
One other bit from this Action run that I just love so far. When Superman shows up at the Daily Planet, Perry takes him aside and asks him sheepishly, "Um, any cancer?" Superman gives him a quick scan with his X-ray vision and tells him he's all clear. Such a wonderful moment between these two friends.
I also love the growth of Sam Lane into a 3-dimensional character. I love how he held back when questioned...shows a real father, not a cartoon villain. This makes so much more sense.
Action Comics #1010: I love this book so much. Espionage, intrigue, twists, turns, everything. Mr. Bones, Amanda Waller, Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and so many more players in this story so far. This doesn't feel like a Superman book necessarily, but it feels like it belongs well within the Superman world, and it feels like this book's history (as written by Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, etc.) has earned it. As has the writing of John Ostrander in the pages of Suicide Squad.
Bendis cannot be said to not have respect for his predecessors.
Yep, Action Comics might be my favorite book DC is putting out at the moment. But any Bendis book automatically goes to the top of my pile.* He's firing on all cylinders right now.
*Well, a few, like Scarlet and United States vs Murder Inc, I'm saving for collections.